Archive for November 2003

In or Out of Iraq: The Bushies Ponder

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While there isn’t much doubt at this point that there is a deep division in the Bush Admin over Iraq, the exact nature of the split hasn’t been clear. Turf battles? Power politics? Personality clashes? Or something deeper, more fundamental?

On the Brookings Institution website, they make available an article by two Senior Fellows (first printed in the Financial Times) that takes a pretty good whack at defining the core of the war inside the WH, and if they’re right, things are even worse than we thought.

While President George W. Bush insists that “America will never run,” a fierce debate is raging just below the surface of his administration over when and how America should exit from Iraq. The debate pits those who favour a massive effort to turn Iraq into a beacon of democracy for the Middle East against those who want to concentrate the US mission on defeating insurgents so American troops can return home.

IOW, Bush is lying to us again: the argument isn’t over whether or not to exit, it’s about when and how. The players in this war are all too familiar. On one side, The Donald and The Dick, for whom security is All: defeat the “insurgents” and get out, preferably before the election. On the other, The Wolfe and Perle The Pearl, who–lost in the wooly wilds of Neocon Fantasy Land–actually think they can make the whole region into America East. The authors, Ivo Daalder of Foreign Policy Studies and James Lindsey of the Council on Foreign Relations, call the two factions “assertive nationalists” vs. “democratic imperialists” (the later is, of course, an oxymoron, although they don’t seem to have noticed), and if their analysis is correct, neither side is playing with a full deck. Take the “democratic imperialists”:

[T]he democratic imperialists believe America can be secure only if the rest of the world is remade in America’s image. Accordingly, they favour deploying ever more US troops and spending ever more money to create a stable, democratic Iraq. Their model is postwar Germany, where a long-term military occupation and the Marshall Plan created the conditions for a free, democratic and prosperous Europe with Germany at its core.

If Iraq isn’t Viet Nam, neither is it post-war Germany with a country in rubble and a population that expected to be not just occupied but plundered. And the CPA Reconstruction effort is certainly not the Marshall Plan, which Truman insisted be transparent and accountable while Halliburton and Bechtel are patently neither. These guys are reality-challenged, apparently, imagining themselves in some heroic re-incarnation of 1946 with themselves in the starring roles.

But this isn’t a John Wayne movie and wishing doesn’t make it real. Unlike the brief, weak German resistance to the Occupation Forces, the Iraqi resistance is growing, not diminishing; where a majority of exhausted Germans accepted the Occupation as inevitable, the Iraqis–even the hand-picked Governing Council–want the US to give their country back, and increasing numbers of them are willing to fight to make that happen. Unlike the reconstruction effort overseen by George Marshall, the Iraqi reconstruction is treated by Bechtel and Halliburton as little more than a cash cow, an opportunity for massive profit-making through cut-rate work and steady overcharging given to them by a compliant, unquestioning govt in exchange for their huge campaign contributions. If there are similarities here, they’re superficial at best.

The “assertive nationalists” are just as out of it:

They believe America’s security demands, foremost, the defeat of its enemies and the elimination of the threats they pose.After the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks, Saddam Hussein’s ties to terrorists and his appetite for weapons of mass destruction made him an un-acceptable risk. He had to go.

What ties? On closer examination, all of Ahmad Chalabi’s carefully-built fictions about Hussein as the center of the world-wide terrorist network have dissolved into the thin air out of which Chalabi made them. And the WMD’s? Didn’t exist. Hadn’t existed for 10 years or more because it turns out the UN inspections worked. Rumsfeld and Cheney are revealed as over-reacting paranoids, little kids terrified of imaginary monsters in the closet while ignoring the very real snake curled around the bedpost.

And these fantasists are making the decisions? Give me strength. This is like a war between Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch over control of Scrooge McDuck’s make-believe fortune. Isn’t there anybody in this Administration with some tie to reality, however slight or tenuous?

Where does Mr Bush come down in this debate? He has occasionally used the rhetoric of democratic imperialists, notably in last week’s stirring speech before the National Endowment for Democracy. But his longstanding disdain for nation building, lacklustre interest in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and initial failure to push his subordinates to generate a plan for rebuilding Iraq all mark him as an assertive nationalist. His recent bid to speed the training of Iraq’s police and security forces to reduce America’s military presence is further evidence of this.

He talks like a DI and acts like an AN. Confused, I guess you’d have to say (and where’s the surprise in that?). We’ll get no help there.

Don’t think about this too much or try to make sense of it. You can’t. There isn’t any. This is Bizzarro World, everything is upside down and backwards, and nothing is real.

Don’t blame me. I didn’t vote for the SOB.

Oh, right–the country didn’t either. The SCOTUS elected him. Blame Bill and Tony. Having second thoughts yet, guys?

(Thanks to Just One Minute.)

Written by Mick

November 15, 2003 at 8:53 am

Republicans Find Depths To Sink To That You Never Imagined Existed

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I could almost offer this without comment since it speaks so eloquently for itself:

It is an unusual charity brochure: a 13-page document, complete with pictures of fireworks and a golf course, that invites potential donors to give as much as $500,000 to spend time with Tom DeLay during the Republican convention in New York City next summer — and to have part of the money go to help abused and neglected children.Representative DeLay, who has both done work for troubled children and drawn criticism for his aggressive political fund-raising in his career in Congress, said through his staff that the entire effort was fundamentally intended to help children. But aides to Mr. DeLay, the House majority leader from Texas, acknowledged that part of the money would go to pay for late-night convention parties, a luxury suite during President Bush’s speech at Madison Square Garden and yacht cruises.

And so campaign finance watchdogs say Mr. DeLay’s effort can be seen as, above all, a creative maneuver around the recently enacted law meant to limit the ability of federal officials to raise large donations known as soft money.

“They are using the idea of helping children as a blatant cover for financing activities in connection with a convention with huge unlimited, undisclosed, unregulated contributions,” said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a Washington group that helped push through the recent overhaul of the campaign finance laws. (emphasis added)

And other Repugs think this is such a good idea that they’re copying it:

Already Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, is planning to hold a concert and a reception in conjunction with the convention as a way of raising money for AIDS charities

Marvelous. What can you say? Without throwing up, I mean. Here are the advantages (as if you couldn’t guess):

Mr. DeLay’s charity, Celebrations for Children Inc., was set up in September and has no track record of work. Mr. DeLay is not a formal official of the charity, but its managers are Mr. DeLay’s daughter, Dani DeLay Ferro; Craig Richardson, a longtime adviser; and Rob Jennings, a Republican fund-raiser. Mr. Richardson said the managers would be paid by the new charity.************

But because the money collected will go into a nonprofit organization, donors get a tax break. And Mr. DeLay will never have to account publicly for who contributed, which campaign finance experts say shields those who may be trying to win favor with one of the most powerful lawmakers in Washington. (emphasis added)

Beautiful, ain’t it? A bloody work of art–rip-off art. Amazing. Just when you think they’ve hit bottom, they dig down to a new substrata. At this rate, they’ll break into the Fires of Hell in about a week.

But here’s a bonus: Michael Slackman, the NYT reporter who wrote the piece, characterizes DeLay’s brainstorm with breathtaking understatement. After listing the various charitable activities DeLay promises–

Mr. DeLay, among other things, is offering donors private dinner with himself and his wife; the chance to participate in a golf tournament; a late-night party with a rock group; access to a luxury suite for elected officials and donors; as well as the yacht cruise, tickets to Broadway shows and more. Other elected officials are welcome at all of these events.

–he characterizes the scheme this way:

But by holding events at the convention — and working under the auspices of a charity — Mr. DeLay has stepped into an ethical gray area, election law and tax law experts said. (emphasis added)

“Ethical gray area”? Um, yeah, that’s one way of putting it. Another is “an unethical, midnight black area, a nightmare of depravity, greed, and arrogance, an area running with plague and pus, and a disgraceful display of cold-hearted selfishness worthy of Ebeneezer Scrooge.”

But I understate.

Written by Mick

November 14, 2003 at 7:08 pm

Posted in Corruption, DeLay

Clark Proposes Fighting Al Qaeda with the Saudis

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Emma Goldman has has a post up on her blog, Notes on the Atrocities, on Wesley Clark’s proposal to team with the Saudis to fight Al Qaeda. She says:

Wes Clark wants to team with the Saudis to defeat Al Qaida. Hmmm. I’ll admit that when I was in school, I was generally reading about Tolstoy and Mahavira–not foreign policy. That said, I’m pretty sure this is a really bad idea. Let’s start with the obvious: what is the best-case outcome? The Saudis are going to root out Osama? Apparently, that’s what Clark is thinking:

General Clark said the joint United States-Saudi commando force would be similar to groups formed by the American military and police forces in Colombia while he oversaw United States military operations in Latin America.

Again: hmmm. Columbia’s our model for success with this scheme? I’m still not seeing the wisdom.

The way I see it, there are only downsides. Al Qaida’s main target was initially the Saudis, whom Osama thought were traitors to his brand of Wahabism. As Afghanistan and Iraq fester with the gangrene of terror, I don’t see how teaming up with the Saudis helps the situations there. But far worse is that joining with the Saudis completely undermines the US’s stated goal of bringing Democracy to the region. It reeks of political expediency at the risk of long term consequences. If the US is genuinely concerned about fostering democracy in the region, it needs to team with nations at least inclined in that direction. The Saudis are probably last on that list, behind even Iran. She makes a valid point. Saudi Arabia may be our biggest oil provider and best friend in the region (tell me again how those two things aren’t connected), but it’s also a horrendous despotism with a long history of supporting Arab terrorists with both money and weapons. Clark is probably figuring that the Saudis’ attitude is about to change now that they’ve become targets, and there’s something to be said for that pov, but it’s a dangerous game.

Arab govts like the Saudis tend to play both ends against the middle, maintaining lines into all opposing camps as a matter of policy. On top of that, the various players at high levels of the Saudi regime have vastly differing agendas and it’s extremely difficult to tell who’s on which side at any given moment–much more difficult than in Columbia. Where in Columbia the players’ loyalties and allegiances are well-known and switching sides is unusual, in Saudi Arabia–as in other Arab govts–alliances shift constantly with the changing winds; an enemy today could be a friend tomorrow and vice versa. It’s difficult for a native to keep track of, impossible for a foreigner who didn’t grow up in that atmosphere.

This raises the specter of a scenario in which the tactics and strategies of anti-terrorist forces would have to be shared with people whose allegiance couldn’t be taken for granted; vital information (the Middle East is a sieve) could easily make its back-channel way to the very groups that are the target of an operation, frustrating if not disemboweling the whole enterprise. That isn’t a reason not to make the attempt, but it should give one pause.

Nothing in the Middle East is as easy as it might look. A joint effort with Saudi Arabia may look good on paper, but the reality is that the Saudi govt has been and remains riddled with terrorist sympathizers, and–as Emma points out–playing footsie with a dictatorial regime tends to give our insistence that we want to promote democracy in the area a black-eyed ring of hypocrisy.

This certainly isn’t enough to make me decide not to vote for him, but it sure is sufficient grounds for hesitation. What’s he thinking?

Written by Mick

November 14, 2003 at 6:29 pm

Posted in Iraq, The GWOT

Kerry on the Brink

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It appears that the Kerry campaign is about to implode, which was predictable in some ways but too damn bad just the same. According to the NYT’s David Halbfinger, the younger faction led by Jim Jordan was in a tug o’ war with Gore’s old political advisor, Bob Shrum. The proximate cause isn’t hard to figure out: Shrum is considered by some to be responsible for the debacle that was Gore’s 2000 campaign, and Jordan apparently felt he was going to do the same for Kerry.

The real cause is, of course, numbers: Kerry, the one-time frontrunner-to-be, has been completely eclipsed by Howard Dean. So thoroughly has Kerry been run off the stage, in fact, that a Newsweek poll shows him even with–wait for it!–Carol Moseley Braun at a mere 7%. A more inglorious comedown would be hard to imagine. He’s even trailing Joe Lieberman, which means the only candidates he’s beating are Kucinich and Sharpton, and at the rate he’s been sinking, they’re hot on his tail and Braun will likely pass him soon if nothing changes. Ergo, the shake-up.

But whether you fault Shrum’s cautious approach or Jordan’s concentration on trying to take the activist core away from Dean for Kerry’s lousy numbers (and I have no idea which faction has been calling the shots for the past few months), the one thing nobody is arguing about is that Kerry’s on the ropes. He will probably lose in NH, a neighboring state that was only a few short months ago considered such a Kerry stronghold that it was a lock. If he does, his candidacy is all but over.

If so, the truth is he has nobody but himself to blame. My guess, based on what seems to me to be a schizophrenic campaign, is that Kerry’s been playing both ends against the middle: he’s been following Jordan’s plan by attacking Dean more often than Bush, but he’s been using Frum’s approach everywhere else by tailoring his opinions and proposals closely to poll results, taking no chances on alienating any Demo faction or saying anything that could hurt him in the general when the campaign has to swing to the center. It’s a formula that Bill Clinton used to great effect, but Clinton took his lumps for it. He could steamroller right over those rough spots with his passion, his charisma, and oratorical skills we haven’t seen since Bryan, but Kerry is no Bill Clinton. It hasn’t worked for him, and it won’t. For one thing, he can’t talk.

But if you had to pick a single cause for Kerry’s poor showing, it wouldn’t be any of those things–not the campaign in-fighting or the poll-watching or the lack of charisma. As negative as they are, they’re not the root cause of the surprising wholesale abandonment of his candidacy by rank-and-file Dems. The root cause was a single vote, and the AJC’s Cynthia Tucker nails it to the wall:

Among the chattering classes, much has been made of infighting among Kerry’s campaign aides, a conflict that some blame for his current troubles. But the torpor of the Kerry campaign can be traced to one act, one decision, one vote: his support of the resolution giving President Bush the authority to invade Iraq.Had Kerry voted “no,” he’d be the Democratic front-runner right now, bringing credibility on foreign policy because of his military service while also upstaging Wesley Clark on domestic policy.

Even now, a year later, Kerry has trouble explaining his vote to go to war. You’d think a man like Kerry — a decorated Vietnam veteran who later became an outspoken critic of that war — would have a succinct, indeed passionate, explanation for his vote. But Kerry stammers, sputters, doubles back, never able to give a short and simple response.

Perhaps that’s because Kerry’s vote was based on politics, not principle.


I remember the disappointment of liberals and progressives at the time, who had thought–up until that moment–that Kerry would be one of the few to stand firm. His statements prior to the vote gave us reason to think that and–as Tucker points out–nothing had changed:

As Congress debated Iraq last year, Kerry became one of the Senate’s most articulate critics of Bush’s rush to war. “Until we have properly laid the groundwork and proved to our fellow citizens and our allies that we really have no other choice, we are not yet at the moment of unilateral decision-making in going to war against Iraq,” he wrote in The New York Times in September 2002.But just a month later — with nothing in the president’s approach to Iraq having changed — he gave Bush that unilateral authority.

The minute he did it, we knew it for what it was: a political vote for political reasons and a repudiation of everything he had stood for up to then. He was trying to have it both ways once more: by speaking against the war, he hoped to placate the anti-war activists who are the Dem’s shock troops and the ones who would turn out to work for and vote in the primaries; by voting for the resolution, he hoped to muffle the inevitable charges of treason that would come from the Publican attack-press during the general.

Maybe it was an intelligent choice at the time, but smart or not, it was a political choice that had nothing to do with principle, nothing to do with belief, nothing whatever to do with anything except his ambitions for his political future, and it left a yawning hole in the Democratic firmament that Howard Dean was quick to exploit. In fact, I could make a pretty good argument that had Kerry followed the conscience expressed in his own statements and voted against the resolution with a strong speech laying out his reasons, the candidacy of Howard Dean might never have existed.

But he didn’t. He played to expediency and he’s paying for it now. Which is probably as it should be,

Written by Mick

November 12, 2003 at 4:42 pm

The Emperor Alienates…Everybody

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The arrogant imperialist Bush Administration has so far managed to piss off:

*The Democratic members of Congress, naturally, who have been treated by the Publican leadership as if they were either escaped criminals, mentally deficient, or children who should be seen and not heard;

*Rank-and-file Democrats, of course, who are lined up ten-deep in the Dump Bush line after 3 solid years of broken promises, Orwellian policies (Healthy Forests, No Child Left Behind, Support Our Troops, etc etc etc), Bushian logic (if things are getting worse, that means they’re getting better), and the most obvious and wide-spread crony-capitalism since Warren Harding;

*The US Intelligence Community, which BushCo has made the scapegoat for 1) their own failure to defend the US from threatened terrorist attacks that the CIA, Mossad, MI6, Interpol, and the out-going Clinton NSC all repeatedly warned them were coming and which finally took place without any interference from BushCo on 9/11, 2) their refusal to listen when CIA analysts insisted that the UN inspectors were right and there was no evidence of WMD’s in Iraq before the war, and 3) their insistence on crediting master con-artist Ahmad Chalabi’s fairy tales about a country he hadn’t seen in more than 40 years despite the IC’s evidence that he was lying and hugely misrepresenting both his own influence in Iraq and that of the INC;

*Some of their own pet Congressional Republicans, angry over stonewalling, lies under oath, and treatment similar to what they hand the Democrats if they dare to question the WH’s revised version of history;

*Sizeable segments of the military after: lying to them about Iraq; cutting their benefits, cutting their pay, cutting their school allowance, cutting their health care, cutting their housing allowance, cutting their death benefits, making them pay their own way home when they finally get leave from Iraq, and even refusing to pay soldiers tortured during the First Gulf War their legally mandated compensation (Scott McClelland’s answer in today’s Press Briefing seemed to amount to “No amount of money can compensate them for what they went through, so that’s what we’ll give them–no amount.” [see Tom Tommorrow for the link and an excerpt]);

*The whole rest of the world for so many reasons it’s impossible even to list them all, from the wholesale pull-out of the Bush Admin from virtually every international treaty in which we were involved (including the International Treaty on Children’s Rights, for god’s-sake) to its screw-you-we-can-do-what-we-want-we-don’t-need-you attitude before the Second Gulf War.

According to the NY Times, we may be able to round out this list by adding the Supreme Court:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10 — Setting the stage for a historic clash between presidential and judicial authority in a time of military conflict, the Supreme Court agreed on Monday to decide whether prisoners at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, are entitled to access to civilian courts to challenge their open-ended detention.

Why would the heretofore Bush-friendly SCOTUS suddenly be willing to entertain a question they’ve been ducking for 2 years? Methinks it might have something to do with this argument from Solicitor General Ted Olsen, the man who convinced them to break all their own precedents to put George on the throne in the first place:

The brief filed for the Britons and Australians by the Center for Constitutional Rights, a liberal public interest law firm in New York, told the court that “we alone exercise power at Guantánamo Bay” and that the base should therefore be treated for jurisdictional purposes as part of the United States. In the administration’s view, not only is that conclusion incorrect but it is not one that the court is free to make. The determination of sovereignty over a particular territory is “not a question on which a court may second-guess the political branches,” Solicitor General Olson said in his brief. (emphasis added)

IOW, “Butt out, The Court’s got no right to tell us what to do.” Uh-huh. It’s at least possible that having the Admin lawyer center his argument around their irrelevancy ticked them off just a tad. As a result, the SCOTUS threw out the way Olsen framed the suit:

It was evident on Monday that this, too, was a question on which the justices want to have the final word. That conclusion emerged from a comparison of how the administration phrased the question presented by the two cases with how the justices phrased it in their order granting review. Solicitor General Olson said the question was whether the federal courts had jurisdiction to decide the legality of detaining “aliens captured abroad in connection with ongoing hostilities and held outside the sovereign territory of the United States at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba.”The Supreme Court, by contrast, said it intended to decide the jurisdiction of the courts to hear challenges to “the legality of the detention of foreign nationals captured abroad in connection with hostilities and incarcerated at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba.” The court’s question incorporated no assumption about whether the base was or was not “outside the sovereign territory of the United States.”

So when Olsen argued it was none of their beeswax, they replied, “Wanna bet?”

Junior ought to be more careful who he’s blowing off; he might need the SCOTUS to ride to the rescue again if there’s another squeaker in 2004, and they might not be quite so eager to c his a as they were last time if he keeps telling them that what they think doesn’t matter.

What am I saying?

Forget what I said, G; never mind the future, you’ve got it sown up. A couple of hundred $$Million$$ more in the War Chest plus some low-interest financing from the Wall Street sector, and you’ll be able to buy the country and take it private. You don’t have to worry what 9 old fogies think. Fuck it–take ‘em out, just like you did with Saddam.

Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Happy Veteran’s Day From BushCo:Thanks for putting your lives on the line for Bechtel and Halliburton even though:

**Your equipment is substandard and you had to buy a lot of it yourselves;
**We lied to you about the reason we sent you;
**We lied to you about the way you’d be received;
**We lied to you about the length of time you’d have to serve;
**We cut your pay;
**We cut your health benefits;
**We cut the amount we pay to the schools that educate your kids;
**We cut your combat pay;
**We cut your death benefit;
**We cut the VA budget–again;
**We made you pay your own way home when you finally got a long-overdue leave;
**And we even refused to pay legally-mandated compensation to those of you who were tortured by the evil Saddam in the First Gulf War.

We know we promised not to do any of those things, but, hey, some of our contributors needed that tax cut so they could buy those new yachts they’d been wanting, and the yachting industry really needed a shot in the arm after the neglect of the Clinton years. You understand. Yah gotta have priorities, right? Keep your eye on what’s important: we’re creating jobs! (in the boating industry)

The rest? Oh, that went to Halliburton in a no-bid contract. We can’t reneg on that like we did with you; we have a moral obligation to pay those overcharges, and the only way we can do it is by short-changing you.

You understand. In a time of war, everybody needs to make sacrifices (except us and Halliburton), and we surely do appreciate yours.

And btw, don’t expect to see any of us at any of your funerals1. It’s bad publicity, see? Makes it look like you’re dying over there. Which you are, but we don’t want it to look that way, get the picture? You understand.

Thanks again,


PS. You can afford to pay your own funeral expenses, can’t you? Thanks. We’ll cut that next.

PPS. Anybody who complains about any of this will be court-martialed. Have a nice day.

1. From Newsday‘s Jimmy Breslin (by way of Body and Soul):

The other Sunday, in high excitement, Sgt. Perez got on a helicopter that was going to start him home to his wife, Milagros, and 15-month-old daughter in time for the wedding anniversary, which was yesterday, the day they put him into the ground in Newark.He had not told his wife that he was coming home and the others in the family kept it secret. He got on that helicopter because he had a Bronze Star and Purple Heart from the fighting.

Now, yesterday, he was a name on a list of the dead. If I had not been typing out this list, I wouldn’t have known that Perez was the short ride away at Newark.

There is no public display over the death and all these others on the list accompanying this column. Bush and his people sent them out to get killed and now you can’t get one of them in Washington to mention these dead.

Your government would prefer that night falls and the dead are buried in darkness. We must keep them remote, names on a list, and concentrate on things like patriotism, exporting democracy and shipping freedom – all those big words that Joyce said make us so unhappy.

The list:

Here is your war so far this week:Staff Sgt. Paul J. Johnson, 29, of Calumet, Mich. Killed Oct. 20 in Fallujah, Iraq.

Spc. Paul J. Bueche, 19, 131st Aviation Regiment, Army National Guard, killed Oct. 21 when the tire he was changing on Black Hawk helicopter exploded. Home, Daphne, Ala.

Pvt. Jason M. Ward, 25, 2nd Battalion, 70th Armored Regiment, lst Armored Division, Fort Riley, Kansas. Died in Baghdad on Oct. 22 of non-combat related injuries. Home, Tulsa, Okla.

Spc. John P. Johnson, 24, 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, lst Armored Division, Fort Riley, Kansas. Died in Baghdad of non-combat related injuries on Oct. 22. Home, Houston.

Capt. John R. Teal, 31, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas. Killed on Oct. 24 when an improvised explosive device struck his convoy in Baghdad. Home, Mechanicsville, Va.

Spc. Jose L. Mora, 26, C Company, lst Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo. Died of wounds received from an enemy mortar attack Oct. 24 in Samaria, Iraq. Home, Bell Gardens, Calif.

Sgt. Michael S. Hancock, 29, lst Battalion, 320 Field Artillery Regiment, Fort Campbell, Ky. Killed on Oct. 24 when shot while on guard duty in Mosul, Iraq. Home, Yreka, Calif.

Spc. Artimus D. Brassfield, 22, B Company, lst Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas. Died of wounds received from an enemy mortar attack on Oct. 24 in Samaria, Iraq. Home, Home, Flint, Mich.

Staff Sgt. Jamie L. Huggins, 26, C Company, 2nd Battalion, 325th Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C. Killed on Oct. 26 on patrol when his vehicle was hit by improvised explosive device. Home, Hume, Mo.

Pvt. Joseph R. Guerrera, 20, C Company, 2nd Battalion, 325th Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C. Killed when his vehicle was hit with an improvised explosive device while he was on Patrol on Oct. 26 in Baghdad. Home, Dunn, N.C.

Lt. Col. Charles H. Buehring, 40, Army Central Command Headquarters (Forward) Fort McPherson, Ga. Fatally injured during a rocket-propelled grenade attack on the El Rashid Hotel in Baghdad on Oct. 26. Home, Fayetteville, N.C.

Pfc. Rachel K. Bosveld, 19, 537th Military Police Company, V Corps, Giesen, Germany. Killed Oct. 26 during mortar attack on the Abu Ghraib Police Station. Home, Waupun, Wis.

Pfc. Steve Acosta, 19, C Company, 3rd Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas. Died on Oct. 26 from a non-combat gunshot wound. Home, Calexico, Calif.

Pvt. Jonathon L. Falaniko, 20, A Company, 70th Engineer Battalion, lst Armored Division, Fort Hood, Texas. Killed on Oct. 27 while on duty near the police station in downtown Baghdad when a vehicle containing an improvised explosive device detonated. Home, Pago-Pago, American Samoa.

Sgt. Aubrey D. Bell, 33, 214th Military Police Company, Alabama National Guard. Killed in Baghdad on Oct. 27, when an improvised explosive device detonated at his location at the Al Barra Police Station. Home, Tuskegee, Ala.

Spc. Isaac Campoy, 21, 3rd Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, Fort Hood, Texas. Killed on Oct. 28 in Baghdad, Iraq, when his tank was hit with an improvised explosive device. Home, Douglas, Ariz.

Sgt. Algernon Adams, 36, 122nd Engineer Battalion, Army National Guard. Died on Oct. 28 of non-combat related injuries at Foreward Operating Base, St. Mere, Iraq. Home, Aiken, S.C.

2nd Lt. Todd J. Bryant, 23, lst Battalion, 34th Armored Regiment, lst Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas. Died on Oct. 31 when an improvised explosive device blew up while he was on patrol at Fallujah. Home, Riverside, Calif.

Spc. Maurice Johnson, 21, 326th Engineer Battalion, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Fort Captvell, Ky. Killed in Mosul, Iraq, on Nov. 1 when when the high mobility multi-purpose wheeled vehicle he was riding in was hit by an improvised explosive device. Home, Levittown, Pa.

1st Lt. Joshua Hurley, 24, 326th Engineer Battalion, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky. Killed when vehicle he was riding in was hit by an improvised explosive device. Home, Virgina.

2nd Lt. Benjamin J. Colgan, 30, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, lst Armored Division, Giessen, Germany. Killed when he was struck with an improvised explosive device while responding to a rocket-propelled grenade attack. Home, Kent, Wash.

The following were killed in the crash of the Chinook helicopter at Al Fallujah, Iraq, Nov. 2:

Sgt. Daniel M. Bader, 28, Air Defense Artillery Battery, 1st Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Carson, Colo. Home, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Sgt. Ernest G. Bucklew, 33, Support Squadron, 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment, Fort Carson, Colo. Home, Enon Valley, Pa.

Spc. Steven D. Conover, 21, 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment, Fort Sill, Okla. Home, Wilmington, Ohio.

Sgt. Anthony Dagostino, 20, 16th Signal Battalion, Fort Hood, Texas. Home, Waterbury, Conn.

Spc. Darius T. Jennings, 22, of 16th Signal Battalion, Fort Hood, Texas. Home, Cordova, S.C.

Pfc. Karina S. Lau, 20, of 16th Signal Battalion, Fort Hood, Texas. Home, Livingston, Calif.

Sgt. Keelan L. Moss, 23, of 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment, Fort Sill, Okla. Home, Houston, Texas.

Spc. Brian H. Penisten, 28, Air Defense Artillery Battery, lst Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Carson, Colo. Home, Fort Wayne, Ind.

Sgt. Ross A. Pennanon, 36, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment, Fort Sill, Okla. Home, Oklahoma.

Sgt. Joel Perez, 25, 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment, Fort Sill, Okla. Home, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.

lst Lt. Brian D. Slavenas, 30, F Company, 106th Aviation Battalion, Army National Guard, Peoria, Ill. Home, Genoa, Ill.

Chief Warrant Officer Bruce A. Smith, 41, Detachment I, Company F, 106th Aviation Battalion, Army National Guard, Davenport, Iowa. Home, West Liberty, Iowa.

Spc. Francis M. Vega, 20, 151st Adjustant General Postal Detachment, Fort Hood, Texas. Home, Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico.

Staff Sgt. Paul A. Velazquez, 29, 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment, III Corps Artillery, Fort Sill, Okla.

Staff Sgt. Joe N. Wilson, 30, of 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment, Fort Sill, Okla. Home, Mississippi.

Sgt. Paul F. Fisher, 39, Detachment I, Company F, 106th Aviation Battalion, Army National Guard, Davenport, Iowa. Home, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Sgt. Francisco Martinez, 28, of B Detachment, 82nd Soldier Support Battalion (Airborne) Fort Bragg, N.C. Killed on Nov. 4 in convoy when improvised explosive device exploded. Home, Humacao, Puerto Rico.

Sgt. lst Class Jose A. Rivera, 34, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Fort Bragg, N.C. Killed on Nov. 5 while part of a patrol at Mumulktdyah, Iraq, that came under rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire. Home, Bayamon, Puerto Rico.

Spc. Robert T. Bensonm, 20, of Company A, lst Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment, lst Armored Division, Smith Barracks, Germany. Died from a non-hostile gunshot wound. Home, Spokane, Wash.

The following were killed when a Black Hawk helicopter was shot down by unknown enemy ordinance Nov. 7 in Tikrit, Iraq:

Chief Chief Warrant Officer (CW5) Sharon T. Swartworth, 43, (identified by Pentagon as “female”), regimental warrant officer for the Judge Advocate General Office, Headquarters Department of the Army, Pentagon. Home, Virginia.

Chief Warrant Officer (CW3) Kyran E. Kennedy, 43, of Boston, Mass.

Staff Sgt. Paul M. Neil II, 30, of S.C.

Sgt. Scott C. Rose, 30, Fayettville, N.C.

Kennedy, Neil and Rose were assigned to 5th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 10th Airborne Division, (Air Assault) Fort Campbell, Ky.

Spc. James A. Chance III, 25, of C Company, 890th Engineer Battalion, Army National Guard, Columbia, Miss. Killed Nov. 6 when his vehicle struck a landmine in Husaybah, Iraq. Home, Kokomo, Miss.

Staff Sgt. Morgan D. Kennon, 23, of 3rd Batallion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, (Air Assault) Fort Campbell, Ky. Killed on Nov. 7 in Mosul, Iraq, while guarding a bank in downtown when he came under rocket propelled grenade attack. Home, Memphis, Tenn.

Staff Sgt. Mark D. Vasquez, 35, of lst Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment, lst Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas. Killed on Nov. 8 in Fallujah, Iraq, when a Bradley Fighting Vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device. Home, Port Huron, Mich.

Spc. James R. Wolfe, 21, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 52nd Engineer Battalion, Fort Carson, Colo. Killed on Nov. 6 in Mosul, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device was detonated in his convoy. Home, Scottsbluff, Neb.

Written by Mick

November 11, 2003 at 5:35 pm

The Bracing Idealism of the Young

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In the get-what-you-can-any-way-you-can society the Republicans have almost single-handedly created in the past quarter-century by emphasizing winning to the exclusion of all other considerations, moments of idealistic self-sacrifice are either rare and fleeting or else turn out to be a fraud or a trick. But this week we had a real one–a moment of such startling moral clarity that it throws the whole Bush Administration with its series of lies and misdirections into high relief, shaming them forever.

The AP reports (by way of the SF Chronicle) that in Illinois, a high school quarterback has asked that the pass he made which broke a record be removed from the books. Why? Because he found out his coach had made a deal with the opposing team’s coach:

Nate Haasis’ Springfield Southeast High School team let Cahokia High School score a touchdown late in Saturday’s game, which Cahokia won 42-20. In exchange, Cahokia made no effort to keep Haasis from completing a 37-yard pass that gave him a record.In post-game comments Saturday, both coaches acknowledged arranging the deal during a time-out.

The completion gave Haasis 5,006 yards for his career, setting a new record for the Central State Eight Conference and making him one of 12 Illinois high school quarterbacks to pass for more than 5,000 yards.

But to Haasis, the record was less important than how it was achieved, so he wrote a letter to the president of the CS-8 Conference asking that his record-breaking pass be stricken from the books, a request they are likely to honor (as if they had a choice).

I have no particular animus toward the coaches. The touchdown came late in the game when it was clear that Springfield was going to lose anyway, and it must have seemed like a reasonable trade to help a talented kid’s career in a way that wouldn’t really hurt anyone else. The deal itself is not startling, or–truth to tell–even unusual. But Hiasis’ reaction was.

He chose to reject the record that might have been a stepping-stone to a berth on a decent college team–and maybe the scholarship that went with it–rather than lay claim to a phony accomplishment. Hiasis understood what our leaders clearly do not: that reaching a goal by unethical means invalidates the outcome and slimes everybody connected with it, and that–in this case–keeping falsified records is worse than keeping no records at all.

So rather than convince himself that he deserved it (as George W has done in similar circumstances) or accept it as the way things are and take advantage of it (as Cheney and Rumsfeld, for example, have done), Mr Hiasis’ sense of honor forced him to turn it down. If he had a shot at an NFL career, this will clearly put an end to it, not because he no longer holds the record but because that sense of honor will find no home in professional football where winning any way you can is all that matters.

Mr. Hiasis has sacrificed a great deal for his honor, and I honor him for it. Our self-involved, conscienceless leaders could learn a lot from him. So could the rest of us.

Written by Mick

November 4, 2003 at 4:52 pm

Posted in Culture

Luskin and the RWNM v Krugman

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I don’t know if my tiny core of readers (which I estimate is less than 50 at this point–though they are 50 truly discerning and intelligent folk with impeccable taste, which goes without saying since they read me1) knows or cares who Atrios is, let alone Donald Luskin, and as a rule I try to avoid the kind of inbred, talking-to-ourselves by-play that blogging is heir to, but a recent post by a blogger I like–John McKay at archy–goosed me to for once break my rule. First, the background (from McKay):

Luskin, for those new to this story, writes an NRO column and a blog primarily dedicated to hating Paul Krugman, the best columnist at the New York Times (note my lack of link to Luskin, I’ll get back to that). Luskin’s May 7 NRO column was called “We Stalked, He Balked” and was based on the idea that by getting Krugman to answer the claims of Luskin and his “squad” they somehow had him on the defensive (Krugman has been so fatally damaged by Luskin that he was nominated for a Nobel Prize this year).On October 5 Atrios posted an item on his indispensable Blog, Eschaton, with the title “Diary of a Stalker” that had a pointer to Luskin’s blog and no further comment. Luskin’s main post that day was called “Face To Face With Evil,” and described attending at a lecture and book signing by Paul Krugman. Apparently Luskin feels that throwing his own words back in his face is libel and complained. He was especially upset at some of the comments that were made by people who had the gall to actually go to his site and read his words. Atrios picks up the story:

“In my correspondence with Luskin he asked that I take down the post because of the comments, and said I had an obligation to do so. I asked if he meant a legal or ethical obligation, and he didn’t respond. I then informed him that if he would tell me which comments he specifically was unhappy with I would be happy to delete them. He declined this offer, and said I should just take them all down.”

That’s not good enough for Luskin and he has retained a lawyer. Luskin’s attorney, described by Kos as a “dumbass sleazebag lawyer (Jeffrey J. Upton of Hanify & King P.C.),” officially notified Atrios of their demand that he remove post and comments deemed objectionable by Luskin. In an apparent non sequitur, the paragraph describing Atrios’ dastardly crimes ended with the sentence: “Determining your identity for the purpose of making service of process can be easily accomplished through a subpoena to”

OK. Everybody up to speed now? Here’s the portion of McKay’s post that got to me:

Atrios’ secret identity is as closely guarded as that of Superman or the Batman. Even the Joker and Lex Luthor are far too honorable opponents to think of fighting that dirty (Brainiac might, but he’s a machine lacking such subtle emotions as honor). However, outing is not too low for Luskin and Upton. The threat is clear, cede editorial control over all mention of Luskin (a public figure by virtue of his NRO column) or lose your privacy. It’s pure, cheap legal intimidation. It’s the very definition of a nuisance suit. And the precedent has a chilling affect on all bloggers.The only way to fight a bully is for everyone to stand up for the victim. Do not let them pick us off one at a time. Do not abstain because you have some quibbles with Atrios. I did not speak up when they came for the Jews and all that. This is easy for me to say, because I like Atrios, but I hope some conservative and especially libertarian bloggers will see that their interest lies in not allowing this kind of intimidation to stand.

The course of action is clear. First, write about it. Second, boycott Luskin. If you’re linked to him, unlink him. If you are not linked to him, make a link then get rid of it just for the principle of the thing. Third, call the creepy little stalker a creepy little stalker; they can’t sue us all. Fourth, if they do sue Atrios (right now they’re just at the blustering threats stage), send him money. Calpundit has already offered to form the legal defense committee. Fifth, when they come looking Atrios, we all stand up and cry, “I am Atrios.” Sure, that leads to us all being crucified on the Via Appia, but we’ll all laugh about it when we’re older. (emphasis added–m)

McKay is right about the issues and probably about the solution even if, like a lot of other bloggers (including a surprising number of right-wingers), his concern is a trifle overblown. Orcinus puts the legal threat into perspective:

For what it’s worth, I have extensive experience with nuisance lawsuits like this; as Atrios himself notes, these kinds of things are a common way for right-wingers to harass and intimidate their critics. I’ve been subjected to similar threats multiple times over the course of my career, all of them on equally specious grounds.It does mean that Atrios is going to have to go out and hire a reasonably good libel lawyer to file a response, which will cost money in itself. I trust he’ll set up a defense fund, and all of Blogville ought to chip in to fight this one. Moreover, if Luskin does manage to learn his identity, and then reveals it, Atrios himself will have ample grounds for a countersuit.

I’m fairly confident Atrios will find that he will only need for his lawyer to file a reasonable response (which won’t be difficult) concluding with the note: “We look forward to discovery.”

I don’t think I’ve ever heard back from my would-be harassers (the list includes a former U.S. senator) after those letters.

S/he’s quite right; Luskin’s suit isn’t a serious threat; it’s a nuisance suit designed to harass and/or intimidate a blogger Donald doesn’t like. There is practically zero chance that anything will come of it except, as Orcinus says, Atrios will be put to the burden of hiring and paying a lawyer to stomp on it. But it is a sign that the wackier wingnuts are beginning to take bloggers seriously enough to threaten them with bogus legal action. Previously this sort of snit-fit was reserved for big guns like Michael Moore or Al Franken who were bringing their obnoxious views to a mass audience in defiance of the orders of right-wing pundits. In a perverse sort of way, I suppose you could see this as blogging’s coming-of-age. Major Barbara of Arms and the Man (a must-read blog if ever there was one) puts blogging itself into historical perspective. S/he writes:

Upton’s letter to Atrios is a very serious threat, to each and every one of us. Anonymous tracts helped create this country, and blogs are today’s pamphlets. Tom Paine and Ben Franklin deserved no more freedom in the 18th century than bloggers do today.

Well, *blushing to be put in the same league with Tom and Ben* s/he makes a good point there. That’s what blogging is about and what drew me to it. It’s the one place in our corporate-media-controlled environment which they don’t yet own, and which is wide enough and deep enough and open enough to encompass anybody who can afford to be online–a minimal expense in today’s economy (let’s face it, if I can afford it, almost anybody can)–and has something worth saying. It’s hard to get heard, of course–Technocrati tracks over a million blogs, including Omnium–but it’s possible. Which, aside from getting a letter-to-the-editor published in your local newspaper, is more than you can say for the rest of the corporate-controlled outlets.

What Luskin’s hissy-fit shows is that with some success in getting your message out comes interest from the P’s-That-B and opposition wingnuts in stopping you. These are not exactly rational or tolerant folk we’re dealing with. Ann Coulter thinks that anybody who disagrees with her should be taken behind her upscale hair salon and shot; Tom Delay thinks anybody who disagrees with him is ipso facto an enemy of America; and Dick Cheney thinks that if someone disagrees with him it’s de jure proof that they’re insane. A lot of the far right-wing is, shall we say?, awfully, maybe overly, sensitive to opposition. Digby puts it in a nutshell:

When, exactly, did the right wing become such a bunch of lame-assed pussies, anyway? These are the big, bad motherfuckers who are going to run the world? If this is any indication of how they take a punch, Jenna Bush had better get used to wearing a burka, because Osama bin Laden is going to be sitting in the White House within the next decade.The whining, the crying, the wringing of the hands about “political hate speech,” the law suits over hurt feelings, running away from interviews with a 5’2″ woman because she was “aggressive,” snivelling about “leftist homophobia” for making fun of the simpering drooling over Bush’s “masculinity” — it’s all so pathetic.

We’ve got nothing to worry about folks. Limbaugh’s in rehab because he couldn’t take the pain and had to hide his illegal “little blue babies” under the bed so his meanie of a wife wouldn’t get all mad at him, Bennett spent years furtively cowering behind the “Beverly Hillbillies” video poker machine at the Mirage so that nobody would recognize him, Coulter’s having little temper tantrums on national TV because she’s not being “treated fairly,” and Junior travels with his own special pillow and can’t even give up his favowit, widdle butterscotch candies for longer than an hour and a half.

All codpiece, no filling.


But that’s not necessarily something to laugh off. We can now because we can afford to, and that’s where the more serious issue arises.

What the Bushies and their Norquist-wing allies are essentially trying to do to the legal system is pack it with judges who would support nuisance suits like Luskin’s when they come from the right and are aimed against the left but throw them out of court without a hearing if the direction is reversed. They want a judiciary so slanted and so far to the right that they will never again have to suffer the slings and arrows of criticism without the healing balm of legally-exacted revenge to salve their bruised and battered egos.

Look at the kind of people they’ve been trying to pack the Federal bench with if you doubt it. In every case, they’ve chosen judges who have made decisions contrary to law whenever they had to to protect conservative interests, judges whose decisions prove that their ideological beliefs trump their belief in the rule of law to the point that one begins to get the impression that they think “the rule of law” is nothing but a minor inconvenience they can ignore whenever they feel like it. If the ultra-conservatives were to succeed in what they’re trying to do to the courts, Luskin’s threat would not only be real, it would be very, very dangerous.

That we can still laugh this off is largely due to the courageous work–much less heralded than it should be–of the Democrats in Congress who have managed, despite the way the majority treats the minority (the so-called “Energy Bill” was written entirely by Republicans in committee, and the committee leadership allowed only 2 Democrats to “observe”, forbidding them from speaking on pain of expulsion), to block these anti-democratic appointments through sustained and co-ordinated use of the filibuster.

I have been–and will no doubt continue to be–as critical of weak (when it isn’t non-existent) Democratic opposition in other areas as I think necessary, but nobody can fault their unsung heroism in stopping these heinous imperial judicial appointments for 2 solid years. If they accomplish nothing else (and they may not the way they’re going), this alone makes them worthy of our admiration and respect.

Go Team!

PS. If I haven’t made it clear, Atrios had every right to post what he did and Luskin is a creepy little stalker and a monument to fruitcakes everywhere. End of story.

1. Edited for flattery

Written by Mick

November 1, 2003 at 7:14 pm

Posted in Media, RWNM, The Blogosphere

Is the GDP Up Because Bush Is Down?

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Maybe I’m getting even more cynical in my old age than I thought and am approaching the acid blackness of Twain’s last months, but I gotta say it: Am I the only one who thinks this sudden jump in the economy is a mite, well, suspicious? I mean, 7.2% is A LOT, and it came out of nowhere. We haven’t seen the last few quarters inching up, we haven’t seen any leading indicators leaping out of their cozy beds and doing a jig, we’ve got an Aministration that uses lies and obfuscation the way other people use toothpaste and is in major trouble over practically everything it has ever done, and over it all is a president whose numbers have “stabilized” (yeah, right) at barely the half-way mark. Am I crazy if I think the whole thing could be a Rove-inspired stunt?The timing is a little too convenient, let’s face it. Junior’s numbers are down, the $87B$ for Iraq is giving even Publicans the jitters, the cronyism and back-room business deals are finally getting play in the major media (see Newsweek cover story this week), the Red heartland is wallowing in joblessness and economic stagnation a bare year before the national election while the nation itself is awash in red ink unto the 3rd generation, and Georgie’s getting ready to hit up the Congress to make his tax cuts permanent. It was all looking very iffy for Junior and his Neocon Wonder Boys when suddenly, without warning, from the blue of a cloudless sky, comes a number straight out of a frat-boy’s wet-dream: an economy that appears to have tripled it’s growth rate in the last quarter for no apparent reason

As an old investigator, my instincts are screaming. I don’t believe in such convenient co-incidences. I don’t trust them. The combination of extremely fortuitous timing along with a source that has proved, um, unreliable in the past (to say the least) has set red flags to waving like wind socks in a tornado. “This number isn’t real,” they say. “This number is cooked. Remember, the politicals run EVERYTHING in this Administration. EVERYTHING.”

Krugman seems to think it’s real. I’ll hang onto that for a while, but jeez…. Somethin’ don’t feel right….

UPDATE: Apparently I’m not entirely alone in my skepticism. Digby is having her problems with it as well:

Perhaps I’m being paranoid in thinking that if the entire Wall Street establishment could be hoodwinked by a Texas snake oil hustler into believing that Enron was creating a completely new market that was too complicated for their their pretty little heads to understand, then maybe somebody could be cooking the books a teensy, weensy bit with these economic numbers. Or at least selling them dishonestly. (Nah. They couldn’t get away with that.)The Angry Bear, one of those smart guys, shows how “the BLS has magically discovered a way for jobless claims to drop week after week, without the number of jobless claims ever actually falling.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Alternatively, they could just hang a sign saying “Mission Accomplished.” That’s a good one, too.

It makes me wonder about these rather, shall we say, grandiose productivity and GDP stats. I mean, c’mon. Are people really working that much harder and more efficiently, all of a sudden? Everybody I know spends every spare minute on line, talking on the phone or bitching about how they haven’t had a raise in 2 years. hmmmmm.

Me too.

Written by Mick

November 1, 2003 at 5:12 am


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